By Chris Moon
Gary Johnson has decided to have just one full-time job from now on . . . and he’s pretty excited about it.
“I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve,” he said last week as he prepared for his last Sunday on the job as pastor of The Creek in Indianapolis. “I’m waiting for 8 a.m. on Monday morning to arrive when I only have to wear one hat.”
Johnson retired Sunday from 30 years at the helm of The Creek, which he saw grow from 250 in attendance to more than 4,000 during his tenure—something he attributes to “the grace of God.”
Now he will focus on e2: effective elders, the nonprofit organization he co-founded with David Roadcup and Jim Estep 10 years ago. Johnson serves as the group’s executive director.
It’s high time for the change. As e2 has grown—leading elders conferences and meeting with church leadership teams around the country, and even overseas—Johnson’s work has grown along with it. It’s been pretty much a full-time job on its own.
“When you are 63 years old, you can only do that for so long,” Johnson said.
Just as a sample: In the first three months of this year, Johnson traveled to 12 states with e2 and met with 21 different elder teams. He helped lead six elder conferences as well as a seventh one in India.
Meanwhile, Dan Hamel has taken over as lead pastor at The Creek.
The transition has been a smooth one. Johnson put into practice the leadership transition concepts he wrote about in his 2013 book Leader><Shift.
Hamel joined the staff at The Creek two years ago with the intent to enter into the lead pastor role upon Johnson’s retirement. Since then, the transition has been underway—a gradual process where Johnson has slowly faded into the background.
“My voice is less often heard while Dan’s voice is more often heard,” Johnson said. “My influence is felt less often, and Dan’s influence is felt more often.”
The church set up a special website to provide information to the congregation about the change.
“We’ve always kept the congregation fully engaged in the transition,” Johnson said.
And now Johnson is focusing most of his efforts on e2. The offices of that organization are housed at The Creek, so at least Johnson’s commute hasn’t changed.
He and his wife, Leah, will continue to serve at the church in their volunteer capacities—teaching Sunday school and leading a life group. But the pressure of leading the church has been released.
“I’m pretty excited,” Johnson said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.